UW News

December 10, 2009

UW Center for Human Rights leaders, students to talk about its work today

Angelina Godoy’s teaching and research at the UW focus on human rights, and over time, she has learned that a good many other UW people are working on similar issues. It made her realize it was time for a center.

Godoy and others who led the drive for the UW Center for Human Rights will introduce its work at a 3:30 p.m. gathering today in the Smith Room at Suzzallo Library.

“There has been a great deal of interest in human rights activities at all three UW campuses but we haven’t had a venue to share our work. With a center, we can bring disparate energies together, and it’s also a means of attracting funding,” said Godoy, who holds the Helen H. Jackson Chair in Human Rights and directs the center.

Last June, the Washington Legislature passed a bill establishing the center and directing it to become a statewide site for human rights teaching and research.

“Our approach has to be rooted not only on campus but across the state,” Godoy explained. “We want to work with community groups as well as people in the Legislature.”

The kick-off is part of the University’s observance of Human Rights Day, the anniversary of the U.N. General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. As part of the Center’s program this afternoon, graduate and undergraduate students will display human rights projects currently under way, and several people will outline the center’s future projects.

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation funds not only Godoy’s endowed chair but several smaller grants to help the center get started. The Seattle International Foundation has also contributed support.

Other universities have human rights centers, Godoy acknowledged, but most are based in schools of law or public policy. Housing UW’s center in the College of Arts and Sciences affords chances to go deep in its disciplines, particularly those at the Jackson School of International Studies, Godoy said.

Earlier this year, she and her students successfully pressed the University to broker remediation for workers at the Estofel clothing factory in Guatemala. The plant had closed after an attempt to unionize, leaving workers without severance pay they were owed. Ghim Li Group of Singapore, former owner of Estofel, agreed to pay $648,000.